Richard Dawkins was in the right place at the right time when he wrote 'The Selfish Gene' in the mid 1970s. He was employed as a lecturer at the all-male New College, part of the elite University of Oxford. Thatcherism and Reaganomic principles were developing their own momentum, and would control at least two major economies within five years. An academic from a most credible institution was advancing the theory that not only are humans genetically programmed to be selfish, but that altruism is just selfishness in disguise.
It's a short mental leap from the idea of a selfish gene to the belief that greed "captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit", as articulated by fictional Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gekko in 1987. We have Dawkins to thank for popularising that key idea, along with the concept of the meme. It's not necessary for people to understand the theory of the selfish gene, just the big idea as communicated to them.
By 1989, having endured a decade of revolutionary capitalism, the education system in the United Kingdom was ready for a 'new' big idea. The credibility of classical Marxism was destroyed by Europeans' thorough rejection of communism that year. A faction within leftist academia switched focus to an obscure French group of writers who had a new big idea, post-structuralism or postmodernism. Suddenly, objective reality was out of fashion, and the concept of 'evidence' suspect.
Given what had just happened across Eastern Europe, it was just as well that many of these writers had taken the precaution of being unintelligible, to ensure they could not easily be contradicted.
Okay. The next topic which I would like to get onto in my defence of the phrase "technofascism", indeed in my support of the phrase, is to talk about the sociological aspect of Fascism, which is more or less ubiquitous fear. Now there have obviously been so many good books and documentaries and discussions of this, of this very deep and very broad subject, but one part that I'd like to single out to talk about is what I think is our very modern fear which we sometimes call FOMO - fear of missing out - and this is connected to many things, to vanity and insecurity, to our intrinsic need to feel a sense of belonging to a group, and so on.
So today I'm going to talk about "techno fascism". Many of you will have heard me use this phrase in other talks and lectures, and some people find it cute, and some people kind of object to it. They say "hey, isn't that a bit strong?" So I'd like to explain and defend, and to situate the phrase a little bit. I don't think it's particularly extreme, I think it's really quite fitting in many ways. It's certainly a great shorthand that encapsulates many complex ideas that would be hard to fit under one banner.